06/25/2012 02:35 PM

The World from Berlin

New Egyptian President Faces 'No-Win Situation'

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi may have won Egypt's presidential election, but he still faces massive challenges. German commentators on Monday question whether he can overcome the military establishment's resistance to democracy.

Egypt's new Islamist President Mohammed Morsi will begin building his government this week after his historic election victory was announced on Sunday.

Results from the mid-June presidential election showed that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate had managed a narrow win over his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, the former prime minister of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi's supporters gathered on Sunday night at Cairo's Tahrir Square, the main site of last year's revolution, to chant anti-military slogans and celebrate his victory in the country's first free presidential election in the modern era.

He was also congratulated by world leaders, including United States President Barack Obama, who the White House said had pledged continued support for Egypt's democratic transition.

A number of European Union foreign ministers also called on Morsi to implement democratic reforms in Egypt. "We rely upon and trust that the new Egyptian president will continue the path towards democracy and plurality," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on the sidelines of a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

In a televised address on Sunday, 60-year-old Morsi had said he would be a leader "for all Egyptians," adding that he had a "message of peace" that included his intention to "respect all international agreements."

Big Challenges Ahead

Outlawed under Mubarak, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has never before enjoyed such widespread support in Egypt, though many liberal and secular voters simply felt Morsi was their only option to get rid of the old guard after their candidates were voted out of the running.

The question remains as to how much authority Morsi will actually have after major power grabs by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before election results were announced. Not only did the council dissolve the newly elected parliament, which had been dominated by Islamists, but it also claimed control of many presidential powers.

An aid to the president-elect said on Monday that Morsi had already moved into ousted President Hosni Mubarak's office to begin building his new government. "His priority is the stability on the political scene," campaign spokesman Yasser Ali told news agency Associated Press.

Morsi has said he intends to form a national coalition and a representative presidential team. Some reports said that he may be considering former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei for the office of prime minister, an appointment that would be popular among more liberal Egyptian voters.

The military council has said it will likely hand over power to the new president on July 1, but without a parliament, it remains unclear just where Morsi will be sworn in.

In addition to the delicate task of negotiating a new balance of power, the president-elect faces massive challenges in the struggle to maintain order and lift Egypt out of its post-Mubarak economic hardship. German commentators on Monday say it won't be easy.

Conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"It is unlikely that Egypt's first freely elected president will have much to say, at least when it comes to the military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tatawi. Since Mubarak's fall, the military has largely followed its traditional line, though it occasionally made concessions. In this, two things were paramount -- it didn't want to abet its disempowerment, and it didn't want to see a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in power. The latter explains the military council's many recent measures, including the dissolving of parliament in which more than two-thirds of members elected just months ago were Islamists."

"The now drastically reduced powers of the president make clear that the military, despite statements to the contrary, is unwilling to give up its influence. It fears democracy as much as it does the Muslim Brotherhood. … The question is whether the truly democratic powers in Egypt will give up their fight or continue pursuing their goals."

Conservative daily Die Welt writes:

"The events taking place in Cairo are a mere simulation of democracy. Can any conclusion be drawn from this about the future of the Arab Spring? Yes, but only uncomfortable ones. The first is that because of the chaos and hardship, a large portion of the Egyptian people apparently don't want pure democracy, but rather strict rule by the old elite. After all, the widespread approval of former Mubarak Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq was real. The second lesson is that right now the only counterweight to the old regime is the moderate Islamist party Muslim Brotherhood. To prevent a victory of the old guard, even the liberal revolutionaries of Tahrir Square backed Morsi. The future of the country will now be decided between two extremes of anti-freedom -- the military on one side and the fundamentalists on the other."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"After 60 years the highest office, the military no longer occupies Egypt. This, at least, is something. But whether the Egyptians will have to pay for it in their personal lives, whether Christians, women and liberals will have to live with a fossilized ideology, depends on how quickly the Muslim Brotherhood can learn. It also depends on a willingness to compromise by the military generals. So far, neither have shown much to suggest this will be the case."

"The fact that the generals even allowed an Islamist president to be elected speaks for both their fear of unrest in the case of his loss and their belief that he can be controlled. The struggle between the Islamists and the military has now reached a new phase."

Left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Two scenarios are possible for Egypt after the election victory for the Muslim Brotherhood: The Pakistani scenario, with a partnership between the military and Islamists, or an Algerian scenario, where the two sides clash and the Islamists can't win. Both scenarios are bad for the country."

"Morsi finds himself in a no-win situation. Everything points to the likelihood that he will try to avoid alienating the military while simultaneously building an alliance against it as he forms his new government. That would be the slow way out of his plight. The Muslim Brotherhood needs the other political currents -- from the pro-business to the left. That is their best guarantee against Islamist state experiments."

-- Kristen Allen


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